Results tagged ‘ Mike Rizzo ’

Espinosa expects to win job back, says he shouldn’t have played with broken wrist

By Andrew Simon
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — In talking to Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Matt Williams this winter, Danny Espinosa has come away with one clear message.
“Matt and Mike Rizzo both called me in the offseason and told me I’m going to get a fair opportunity to win my job back, and that’s all I can ask for,” Espinosa said on Saturday at NatsFest. “I’ve never asked for anything to be handed to me. But if I get a fair opportunity to win my job back, I feel like I can do it.”
 
Espinosa began last season the same way he spent the previous two, as the Nats’ everyday second baseman. He finished the injury-marred campaign in Triple-A Syracuse, unable to make it back to Washington to try to lift his .158 batting average, and with his future role in the organization seemingly uncertain.
 
After rookie Anthony Rendon grabbed hold of the second-base job in Espinosa’s stead last season, Espinosa will enter Spring Training with a shot to at least make the club as a utility man. But according to Espinosa, Rizzo has talked to him only about winning back his job, not filling a backup role.
 
Williams indicated Espinosa will have every opportunity to earn playing time.
 
“I just think there’s great potential there. I’m not alone,” Williams said. “There were multiple calls, as I understand it, from teams across baseball this offseason [interested in a trade]. So the Nationals aren’t the only ones who are thinking that. Now, he’s got to put it together and he’s got to play and play well and be effectively, so that’s the objective going in.”
 
Better health figures to play a significant role in Espinosa’s comeback.
 
The 26-year-old spent last offseason unable to lift weights because of a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder that he suffered late the previous year. Then, on April 14, he was hit by a pitch that caused a small fracture in his right wrist. Espinosa played through what originally was diagnosed as a bone bruise and didn’t go on the disabled list until early June. After less than two weeks off, he began a rehab assignment at Syracuse and spent the rest of the season there, hitting only .216 with a .566 OPS in 75 games.
“There was times I couldn’t pick my bat up with one hand,” said Espinosa, who believes his rotator cuff wasn’t a problem. “So my wrist was just in a bad place, and I shouldn’t have been playing on it, but I made the choice to try to play on it.
 
“I shouldn’t have been playing. But at the same time, I’m not the doctor reading the film. So I shouldn’t have been playing on a broken wrist the whole year. But you’re told you have a bruise, you have to play through a bruise. Everyone plays through bumps and bruises. I’m not gonna play through a broken wrist. If I’d have known it was a broken wrist, I wouldn’t have been playing.”
 
The Nationals and team physician, Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, were not available for comment.
 
Espinosa had worked with a trainer for the past five five years, but this offseason hired him to be his personal trainer. He’s back lifting weights, and his shoulder and wrist both feel good.
 
“I’m probably stronger at this point in my career than I’ve ever been in my life,” he said. “My trainer has done an unbelievable job, he’s put me in a really good place. I feel physically I’m at the top of where I could ever be, almost. He’s done everything for me to get back to where I was and get beyond that, strength-wise. So I feel great.”
 
But even if Espinosa comes to camp in great shape and performs well, he may have a tough time winning an everyday job. Rendon, a top prospect, capably handled a shift from third base as a rookie and showed promise with the bat, hitting .265/.329/.396 with 23 doubles and seven home runs in about 400 plate appearances.
 
A utility role could prove to be a good fit for Espinosa, even if he is aiming higher. Williams believes his defense at both second and shortstop is “Gold Glove-caliber” and that he could handle third base as well, while also having 20-home-run power.
 
Williams also said he can empathize with Espinosa, having gone from leading the league in RBIs with the Giants in 1990 to batting .227 in ‘92.
 
“Sometimes it starts going that way, and you can’t stop it, so I understand that,” Williams said. “What got me out of it, or what gets most guys out of it, is the ability to relax and play. That’s what I want him to do. We’re going to get him a lot of reps at short, a lot of reps at second base, he’s gonna get a lot of at-bats and get his stroke feeling good and if he can do all those things, then he’s got a chance to be a really integral part of the team.”

Rizzo on Balfour, backup catching situation

By Bill Ladson

WASHINGTON — Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo spoke to the local media at Saturday’s NatsFest and he acknowledged that the team had interest in reliever Grant Balfour, who recently signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Rays. Rizzo said Balfour wanted to be closer to home .

“We thought there was a value there. I think sleeping in his own bed and being near his home over road what we were trying to get for him,” Rizzo said.

Had the Nationals acquired Balfour, they most likely would have traded reliever Drew Storen, who said he was not bothered by the trade rumors this offseason.

“You don’t take it personally, it part of it. It’s flattering that other teams want you, too,” Storen said.  “You look at it from all angles. [The Nationals] are a great team. Obviously, I don’t want to go anywhere. It’s just part of the business. Nothing new.”

Meanwhile Rizzo hasn’t ruled out acquiring a backup catcher. The Nationals are looking for someone who can fill just in case the starter, Wilson Ramos, misses a lot of time because of injury.

“If a backup catcher fits what we are trying to do and becomes available, we would certainly look into it,” Rizzo said.

The Nationals are looking for a guy who can drive in runs. As of now, Sandy Leon,  Jhonatan Solano,  Chris Snyder  are battling for the backup  role. All were not impressive in the batter’s box last year.

Rizzo’s comments on Storen, Clippard, Nats

General manager Mike Rizzo spoke to the local media Saturday and talked about Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and the Nationals.

On why the Nationals sent Drew Storen to the Minors?

Rizzo:  We felt that he was struggling, struggling with his mechanics, with his tempo with his delivery, with his arm slot, and we felt that we would do him better by letting him go down in a less stressful situation, work on his mechanics, get it fixed and get back up here and help us.

What Storen needs to do to get back to the Major Leagues?:

Rizzo:  I think he needs to … I think it’s a mechanical situation to where he needs to revert back to where he was when we drafted him, where he was in ’11, but mechanically and tempo-wise and arm slot and everything, clear his mind, come back with a fresh, clear mind and be able to help us.

How did Storen take the news?  

Rizzo:  He took it hard like a lot of guys that have established themselves in the big leagues take it. I had a long conversation with him today and it was a very good conversation. I explained to him our rationale for it and that he’s a huge part of this organization and he’s going to be for a long time and just need to get him right. It’s very difficult, especially for a reliever, to tweak your delivery and get your delivery back in sync when you’re in a competitive situation at the big league level trying to win games. We feel that sending him down there, getting him in a less stressful situation, getting him with Spin Williams and Greg Booker, who’ve had him before, had him when he’s been extremely successful, I think it will benefit him.

“I think that he’s performed admirably in ’11, he hurt his arm in ’12 and had surgery. He was slow to recover from that and come back from that, and this year, I think that he was at a point where his arm was finally back to health and his mechanics went away from him. He has to get back to what made him successful – leveraging the baseball downhill, getting movement on his stuff and commanding the baseball much better. To me, the velocity is back to where it was pre-injury, pre-surgery, and now he needs to get back to the deliver, the tempo and the command of the stuff.

Did Rafael Soriano affect Storen mentally?

Rizzo: When you add a player like Rafael Soriano, we felt like we were strengthening a strength. We feel that we had a shutdown back-of-the-game bullpen that would shorten the games for our starters. We felt like that would give us great depth. All the things that we talked about at the beginning of the season. There’s been a lot of closers that started off as set-up guys and the case was we had three guys who had closer’s experience that we felt could finish off games and we felt the back-end of the bullpen was as good as anybody’s.

Please answer the question.  Did it affect Storen mentally?

Rizzo: I don’t see the reason why it should’ve. He’s a mentally-strong person with good stuff and a guy that we’re getting an established closer with a great track record and we felt there was another guy that added depth and power to the end of the bullpen.

What was your reaction to Clippard’s comments?

Rizzo: I talked to Clip also, and we’ve got an open-door policy here. His opinion means a lot to me. I disagree with his assessment of the situation, but you fight to the death to let them speak their mind and say what they want. And that’s what makes these guys what they are on the mound. You’ve got to have a certain type of attitude and makeup to pitch in the latter-end of these games. They’re a competitive bunch, and the one thing I’ve never shied away from is when we have a discussion, we have it man-to-man, eye-to-eye, and I certainly can take his opinion. Like I said, I don’t agree with it, but I commend him for having a strong opinion on it.

Did you decide to send Storen down before the doubleheader?

Rizzo: We made it before. We knew we were going to have to make a roster move after the 26th man and we felt that with his struggles with his delivery and that type of thing, that we were going to give him this opportunity to go back to the minors and figure things out.

Are you looking for a starting pitcher before the deadline?

Rizzo: Well you know we’ve got a lot of trade discussions. We’ve received calls, we’ve made calls. I’m not going to go much more into it than that other than we’re going to do what we do at every trade deadline. We’re going to try to improve this ballclub for 2013 and beyond.

What are the areas of improvement?

Rizzo: You can just press your recorder on this, it’s the same assessment that we’ve had for the last month or so. We feel good about our core players and we feel that we’re solid at our position players, we like our rotation, we like our bullpen arms. If we could tweak or improve certain spots on the bench, I think that would be one place that we would attack. But we’ve got ourselves a pretty talented group of guys that we’re committed to and we like where we’re at.

Is there more weight on next year or this year?

Rizzo: Well we’re going to stay consistent with the same thought process we’ve had since 2009. We’re always worried about this year and beyond. We never make decisions based on the current season alone, so that hasn’t changed since I’ve taken over as GM. We’re always thinking about this year, improving ourselves this year, but when we improve ourselves this year it will be this year and beyond.

On Taylor Jordan’s innings limit

Rizzo: Well, we’ve got parameters in mind for Taylor Jordan and when we feel that he’s done pitching, we’re going to shut him down.

Are you committed to all eight starting position players?

We’ve got a good core of position players, starting rotation and bullpen, and we’re committed to 25 guys right now. We’ve got a good, young core of players and we’re committed to them.

Are you planning any splashy moves?

Rizzo: I still feel the same way. Like I said, things haven’t changed since we spoke on the trade deadline last and things haven’t changed.

Why are the Nationals inconsistent?

Rizzo: We’re in the midst of trying to assess that. I think we still have two months to figure it out and we’ll assess it throughout the rest of the season and come up with a battle plan in the offseason to try and remedy that. We still have a lot of baseball left, and we’re looking forward to that and like I said, I still like this ballclub. I still believe in it.

What is your relationship with Davey Johnson?

Rizzo: I think it’s great. I love Davey and respect him, and I think he feels the same way.

On Ross Ohlendorf in the fifth spot of the rotation.

Rizzo: Yeah, he’s certainly an option for us in the rotation.

What the story on Christian Garcia?

Rizzo: Yeah, he’s rehabbing his hamstring injury.

Is Garcia out for a while?

Rizzo: Well, no. We’re planning on him being able to pitch sometime this year. I don’t know exactly where he’s at with his rehab, but certainly the hamstring set him back because he was just about ready to be activated off the DL.

Is there any chance Davey won’t be the manager by the end of the season?  

Rizzo: There is no chance that he won’t be the manager until the end of the season.

What do you think of Randy Knorr?

Rizzo: Well Randy is a guy that I’ve had great respect for a long time. I think that he’s certainly a manager-caliber, he’s a manager candidate and he has a lot of manager capabilities and we love having him on the staff.

Will Knorr be considered the next manager?

Rizzo: He’s certainly a manager-caliber bench coach at this point.

What are the plans for Jordan in 2014?

Rizzo: Well I think he’s going to get every opportunity to be in the mix for the rotation next year, certainly. He’s pitched extremely well, I like his stuff, I like his demeanor on the mound, he shows poise of a major league pitcher and has the stuff for it.

Are you surprised by what Jordan has done in the big leagues?

Rizzo: No, I’m not surprised at all. We knew what we had with him, that’s why we got his feet wet in some major league spring training games this spring, and he was a guy we liked extremely a lot out of the draft and then of course got sidetracked by that injury.

Rizzo believes Harper, Ramos will help offense

With the non-waiver Trade Deadline coming up on July 31, general manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals’ top priority is getting outfielder Bryce Harper and catcher Wilson Ramos healthy and contributing to the offense, which is one of the lowest scoring in the Major Leagues.

Harper, who is on a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac, is expected to rejoin the Nationals next week against the Brewers. Ramos is close to a rehab assignment, according to manager Davey Johnson.

“We would like to see a big left-handed bat. His name is Harper and he is on the horizon,” Rizzo said.  “And we would like to get a hitting catcher named Ramos. He is on the horizon. And [we really want to] gauge and see what a fully healthy lineup looks like. Two of our main cogs have been out for an extended period. We haven’t had our lineup together since April 14. So we are getting players more and more healthy.

“Hopefully, everyone will be healthy at the same time. We’ll see what the lineup can do when we have all our players playing and everyone is starting to hit on all cylinders — really gauge where we are at.”

With right-hander Dan Haren on the 15-day disabled list, will the Nationals look for another starting pitcher before the deadline? Rizzo said the right-hander has to get healthy first.

“First of all, we have to get him healthy and see where he is at and we’ll evaluate a healthy Dan Haren and make our decision from there,” Rizzo said. “Like any other part of the roster, we want to see him at 100 percent, and I would gauge where we are at from there.”

White Sox’s Dunn happy to be back in Washington

On Tuesday afternoon, White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn was back at Nats Park for the first time since Sept. 29, 2010, when he was a member of the Nationals.

At first glance, Dunn looks comfortable in familiar surroundings, messing with his chewing tobacco and talking to the media about his time with the Nationals. He played for Washington for two years and was one of their best hitters, hitting .264 while averaging 38 home runs and 104 RBIs.

“It’s great to be back. I love the ballpark, I love the city , I love the fans. I have a lot of really good friends on the team, so it’s good to see those guys,” Dunn said. “I loved every single day that I was here. This is a great place to play, from the front office to the clubhouse guys. I haven’t seen a lot of these guys in a long time.”

Before taking batting practice, Dunn was seen having pleasant conversations with principal owner Mark Lerner, general manager Mike Rizzo and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

When Dunn was with Washington, the Nationals were one of the worst teams in basebal, but within two years they became National League East champions.

“It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the team was going to be pretty good in the near future,” Dunn said. “You just didn’t know it was the very, very, very near future. It was a matter of time. The talent speaks for itself. The Nationals had a plan, they stuck with the plan. Everything has worked out pretty much like it should have. That’s a complement to Rizzo with the way he has handled everything.”

Dunn became a free agent after the ’10 season. The Nationals had a three-year offer on the table for months, but Dunn did not accept. He wanted a four-year deal and was able to get one with the White Sox. The Nationals replaced Dunn with Adam LaRoche, who was the Nationals’ MVP last year.

“It wasn’t my choice. I didn’t leave. I had to move on. I think it worked out pretty good for both sides,” Dunn said.

Dunn has a .185 career average with the White Sox. His worst year was .2011, when he hit .159 with just 11 home runs. He declined to say what wrong that year, but he sees a difference between the American League and the National League.

“Pitching is pretty good in the American League, from top to bottom. When you get into the bullpen in the American League, that’s where I see the big difference,” he said.

Game 131: Cardinals at Nationals

Mike Fiammetta here, helping out Bill Ladson on the blog. The Nationals get the Cardinals’ tough right-hander Adam Wainwright tonight, while Gio Gonzalez takes the mound looking for his 17th win. As always, following along on Nationals.com during the game.

Suddenly, all the bad vibes from last week’s road trip are washed away as the Nationals look to push their winning streak to three games on Friday night. Last night’s 8-1 win over the Cardinals was exceptionally satisfying for the Nats, who received a scoreless one-hit, eight-inning gem from Edwin Jackson and multi-hit games from five different batters.

But with tomorrow being the Sept. 1 date for roster expansion to 40 players, much of the pre-game talk addressed the Nats’ roster. Bill will have all the details in the notebook, but manager Davey Johnson said Sandy Leon, John Lannan and Eury Perez are expected to join the team on Saturday. Mark DeRosa (left abdominal strain) is also expected to be activated from the disabled list tomorrow.

-Henry Rodriguez underwent an operation today to remove a bone fragment from his right elbow. Head Team Physician Dr. Wiemi Douoguih performed the surgery in New York, and the Nats are shooting for Rodriguez to be “full-go” at the beginning of spring training.

“Henry has got great upside,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “He’s a power pitcher, and if this injury prevented him from performing at his accustomed level, then that’s a good thing because when he gets healthy, he’s going to revert back to the guy that we saw in spring training and the guy we saw in the beginning of the season.”

-Lucas Giolito also went under the knife, but for Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Dr. Louis Yocum performed the surgery in Los Angeles, though Rizzo didn’t elaborate any further.

-Chien-Ming Wang will make one more minor-league start, while Jhonatan Solano will report to the instructional league in Florida to stay in shape in case of an injury at the Major League level.

Bill will have more in the notebook. Here are tonight’s lineups:

Cardinals (71-60)

  1. Jon Jay CF
  2. Carlos Beltran RF
  3. Matt Holliday LF
  4. Allen Craig 1B
  5. Yadier Molina C
  6. David Freese 3B
  7. Skip Schumaker 2B
  8. Pete Kozma SS
  9. Adam Wainwright RHP

Nationals (79-51)

  1. Jayson Werth RF
  2. Bryce Harper CF
  3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
  4. Adam LaRoche 1B
  5. Michael Morse LF
  6. Ian Desmond SS
  7. Danny Espinosa 2B
  8. Kurt Suzuki C
  9. Gio Gonzalez LHP

Game 128: Nationals at Marlins

Adam Berry here in Miami, once again pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

Some quick news and notes before the first pitch from Marlins Park…

-GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson set the record straight about their vocal postgame meeting following Sunday’s 4-1 loss in Philadelphia. In short: It wasn’t a big deal, and there are no hard feelings.

Johnson proved that as soon as the two sat down in the visiting dugout at Marlins Park. Rizzo sat beside Johnson during his usual pregame meeting with the media, and Johnson immediately put his boss in a headlock and laughed. This came two days after Johnson was overheard shouting, “You come down and manage the team,” at Rizzo inside his office.

“It’s normal business as usual,” Johnson said.

-The full lineups are below, but you’ll notice Michael Morse and Ian Desmond are both starting. If you missed it after the Nats’ fourth straight loss Sunday, there was some talk about how playing short-handed contributed to their recent offensive struggles. They’ve scored all of six runs during their current losing streak.

“We’ve been down a man or two, mostly a man, most of the year,” Johnson said. “But down two, that’s affecting what you can do.”

-Johnson said to only expect three call-ups on Sept. 1: Mark DeRosa, who will be activated from the disabled list; a third catcher; and someone who can pinch run.

-Speaking of call-ups, Johnson said John Lannan, recently named International League Pitcher of the Week, will make one more start for Triple-A Syracuse on Sept. 3 then join the Nats. Of greater interest, considering all the national attention on Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown, is what Johnson had to say about the timing of Lannan’s promotion.

“I think it’s going to pretty much coincide fairly close with Stephen, when he’s shut down,” Johnson said. “I think the timing, he’s lined up almost the same day, so he may have to miss a start.”

As for tonight’s lineups…

Marlins (58-71)
Bryan Petersen LF
Justin Ruggiano CF
Jose Reyes SS
Carlos Lee 1B
Giancarlo Stanton RF
Greg Dobbs 3B
Donovan Solano 2B
Rob Brantly C
Ricky Nolasco RHP

Nationals (77-50)
Jayson Werth RF
Bryce Harper CF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam LaRoche 1B
Michael Morse LF
Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Kurt Suzuki C
Stephen Strasburg RHP

Nats’ Rizzo ready for the Draft

Monday is the day that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo calls his Super Bowl. Rizzo and his staff will be working on selecting the best player in the First-Year Player Draft.

Unlike the previous three years, the team will not have a top 10 pick in the Draft. Instead they will have the 16th overall pick. Since the 2007 season, the organization is known to stack the Minor League system with pitching.

Rizzo said he has an opinion on about 35 to 40 players that he has scouted this year.

“It’s a lot less clearer in the type of player we are going to get,” Rizzo said. “It’s hard to plan, but … we have done all the backgrounds and all the work on 1,100 players in the Draft. We are going to rank them –one to 100 – and we are going to take the best player available, like we always do.”

In the past, the Nationals had an idea how much money they were going to spend. As recently as last year, they were known to go higher than the recommended slot for paying their top Draft picks, but that will change starting this year because of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Under the CBA, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club’s selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team’s selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.

Any team going up to 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a future first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a future first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

Rizzo indicated the new agreement would not impact the Nationals.

“It hasn’t impacted us one bit,” Rizzo said. “We are going to take it like we always have. We are going to put the board together – ability-based – and we will do our due diligence on the health, makeup, signability on all the players. We are going to pull the trigger and pick the best player available.

“The constrictions that you have on the amount of money that you can spend will certainly change in the way we have done business in the past. Again, it comes down to getting the right player in each of the right slots.”

Live coverage of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Nats extend working agreements with four Minor League affiliates

The Nationals have agreed on two-year player development contract extensions (2013-14) with Triple-A Syracuse, Double A Harrisburg, Class A Potomac and Class A Auburn on Friday.

The Syracuse Chiefs entered the International League in 1885 and have been a continuous member of the IL since 1961. Since becoming the Nationals’ top affiliate in 2009, the Chiefs are 215-212 (.504).

The Harrisburg Senators entered the Eastern League in 1987 and have been an affiliate of the Nationals franchise since signing on with the Montreal Expos in 1991. The Senators have reached the post-season each of the last two seasons and, at 300-268 (.528), are 32 games above .500 the last four seasons.

A Nationals affiliate since 2005, Potomac joined the Carolina League in 1984. Potomac has posted a stellar 368-324 (.532) record beginning in 2007. The P-Nats have reached the playoffs three times in the last four seasons and twice (2008, ’10) won the Mills Cup, which is awarded annually to the Carolina League champions.

In its first season in Washington’s chain, Auburn went 45-30 (.600) and claimed a Pinckney Division title before losing in the New York-Penn League Championship series.

“We could not be more pleased to make this commitment,” Rizzo said. “To make this announcement so early in the season speaks to how much we value our relationships and the environments cultivated by the good people in Syracuse, Harrisburg, Potomac and Auburn. We take our affiliate relations very seriously in Washington. They are a vital part of our family and we know that with time, these bonds will only strengthen.”

[Update] Nats, Zimmerman agree to contract extension

The Nationals and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman have agreed to terms on six-year $100 million extension with a full no-trade clause. There is also a club option for $18 million. A press conference is expected to be held later today at Space Coast Stadium.

Zimmerman is one of six players –Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun 2020, Matt Kemp are the others — signed through 2019.

The team had until the end of Saturday to get a deal done with Zimmerman, who hinted on Friday afternoon that he wanted a no-trade clause in his contract. Zimmerman has two years left on his current deal worth $26 million.

“It’s a relief. It’s a lot of stuff to work out. It’s a big commitment. Things like that don’t get done quickly,” Zimmerman said before having his press conference. “Both sides worked tirelessly to get this stuff done. Now, we don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

On Saturday night, general manager Mike Rizzo said there were no major stumbling blocks to complete a deal.

“We don’t have a deal done yet, but we have made significant progress,” Rizzo said Saturday. “We feel good about it and optimistic that we can reach an agreement, but there are some small details that we have to iron out through tonight and tomorrow.

“Hopefully, tomorrow, [by] the time we see [members of the media], we’ll have something more concrete to announce. But we feel good and optimistic that Zim is going to be a Washington National for a very, very long time.”

Zimmerman is considered the face of the franchise. He was selected in the first round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft and became the most popular player in franchise history. In six years, he has won two silver slugger awards, a gold glove and made one All-Star appearance.

“Zim has been our centerpiece since he came up to the big leagues. He was our top prospect,” reliever Tyler Clippard said. “And when I got here, he was the man. I think it’s important to an organization to show loyalty to a guy that has been loyal to them and has done so many things for the organization on and off the field. It’s just says a lot about what kind management we have and the direction that we are going.”

Said Shortstop Ian Desmond, “It’s just another indication that organization is moving in the right direction. … To see Zim happy at home and not have to work about that anymore, it’s going to be nice. It’s good that the deal got done. It’s kind of a good faith-type thing. I think it would have gotten ugly if the deal didn’t get done. I’m happy for him. We definitely need him.”

Zimmerman originally had a self-imposed deadline of 10:00 a.m. ET on Saturday. Zimmerman said he didn’t want to talk about his contract after that day, for he didn’t want to become a distraction to the team.

Around 1:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, Zimmerman told the media that his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, had come up with a creative solution to bridge the gap between the two sides. Zimmerman then said he wanted the deal to be done by the end of Saturday.

“Both sides are working to try to get over the last … couple of hurdles,” Zimmerman said. “We are both trying to be creative. It will be either yes or no, today. We’ll have closure either way. It’s something to ensure me that I will be here because that’s the reason I’m signing the deal. That’s basically the only thing left.

“Like I said all along, we can concentrate on baseball and not have you guys [the media] worry about it anymore and — more importantly — my teammates and myself.”

Van Wagenen was seen talking to Rizzo at the Nationals’ Spring Training complex on Wednesday. The two sides also talked Thursday and Friday without coming close to a deal.

Zimmerman is coming off an injury-plagued 2011 season in which he hit .289 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs across 101 games. He missed significant time because of an abdominal injury.

Van Wagenen and the Nationals have been in serious discussions about an extension for Zimmerman since the Winter Meetings last December.

“We have made significant progress on an extension for Ryan that would ensure he plays for the Nationals for a long time, which has always been Ryan’s goal,” Van Wagenen said in a statement. “We are working on a structure that will allow the team to continue to add talent and establish a winner which is another goal of Ryan’s.

“While there are still important aspects to work through, we bridged multiple important gaps on many major parts of a contract. Nothing is done until it is done, but both sides are optimistic that an agreement can be reached and Ryan can focus his energies on preparing with his teammates for the season.”

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